Edward Everett Hale.

Franklin in France. From original documents, most of which are now published for the first time online

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means surprising or treacherous.^

' A clear understanding of this point will render clearer the pro-
ceedings in regard to the Canada paper which Franklin gave to Oswald.


The French position as regards the Newfoundland
fisheries is made sufficiently evident in the famous
Marbois letter and Vergennes's comment thereon.^

Extract from the Translation of a Letter from M. de
Marbois to M. de Vergennes.

Philadelphia, 13 March, 1782.
. . . Mr. Saml. Adams is using all his endeavours to
raise in the State of Massachusetts a strong opposition
to Peace, if the Eastern States are not thereby admitted
to the fisheries, and in particular to that of Newfound-
land. S. Adams delights in trouble and difficulty, and
prides himself on forming an opposition against the
Grovernment, whereof he is liimself President : his aim
ind attention are to render the minority of consequence
md at this very moment he is attacking the constitu-
;ion of Massachusetts altho' it be in a great measure his
3wn work but he had disliked it, since the people had
shown their uniform attachment to it: it may be ex-
pected that with this disposition, no measure can meet
;he approval of Mr. S. Adams, and if the United States
should agree relative to the fisheries, and be certain of
Dartaking therein, all his manoeuvres and intrigues would
30 directed towards the conquest of Canada and Nova
Scotia , but he could not have used a fitter engine than
jhe Fisheries for stirring up the passions of the Eastern

A.ny such proposition as that would be, of course, utterly opposed to
;he views of Vergennes. Franklin, therefore, had nothing to say
;o him on the matter, and conducted the whole business without his
knowledge — a striking exception to his usual behavior.

1 This letter was intercepted by the English, and by them trans-
ited and put into the hands of Jay, on whom it had a great effect.
But, as letters were at that day sent in quadruplicate, it is probable
ihat Vergennes also received a copy of the letter, at some time during
,he summer.


people. By renewing this question wMch had lain dor-
mant during his two years absence from Boston, he has
raised the expectation of the people of Massachusetts
to an extraordinary pitch ; the public prints hold forth
the importance of the fisheries ; the reigning toast is
May the United States ever onaintain their right to the
Fisheries. It has been often repeated in the General
Court; No peace without the fisheries. However clear the
principle may be in this matter it would be needless
and even dangerous to attempt informing the people
thro' the public papers, but it appears to me possible to
use means for preventing the consequences of success
to Mr. S. Adams and his party, and I take the liberty
of submitting them to your discernment and indul-
gence : one of these means would be for the King to
cause it to be intimated to Congress or to the Ministers
"His surprise that the Newfoundland Fisheries have
been included in the additional instructions ; that the
United States set forth therein pretensions ivithout pay-
ing regard to the King's rights and without considering
the impossibility they are under of making conquests,
and keeping what belongs to Great Britain." Plis
Majesty might at the same time cause a promise to be
given to Congress " of his assistance for procuring ad-
mission to the other fisheries, declaring however that
he would not be answerable for the success and that he
is bound to nothing as the Treaty makes no mention
of that article." This Declaration being made before
the Peace the hopes of the people could not be supported
nor could it one day be said that we left them in the
dark on this point. It were even to be wished that this
declaration should be made whilst New York, Charles-
town and Penobscot are in the enemies' hands. Our
allies will be less tractable than ever upon these points


■whenever they recover those important posts. There are
some judicious persons to whom one may speak of giving
up the Fisheries, and the [ j of tlie West for the sake
of Peace : but there are enthusiasts who fly out at this
idea, and their numbers cannot fail' increasing when,
after the English are expelled this continent, the bur-
then of the war will scarcely be felt. Another means
of preserving to France so important a branch of her
commerce and navigation, is that proposed to you, sir,

by Mr. Adz. the conquest of Cape Breton, it seems

to me as it does to that minister the only sure means of
continuing within bounds, when Peace is made, those
swarms of smugglers who without regard to treaties,
will turn their activity, daring spirit and means towards
the Fisheries, whose undertakings Congress will not
perhaps have the power or the will to repress. It is
remarked by some that as England has other fisheries
besides Newfoundland, she may perhaps endeavour that
the Americans should partake in that of the Great Bank
in order to conciliate their affection or procure them
some compensation or create a subject of jealousy be-
tween them and us : but it does not seem likely that
she will act so contrary to her true interest, and were
she to do so, it will be for the better to have declared
at an early period to the Americans that their preten-
sion is not founded, and that His Majesty does not mean
to support it. . . .

Vergennes's comment on these views is to be found
in a letter to Luzerne, written Aug. 12. " It appears,"
he writes, " that Mr. Samuel Adams is endeavouring to
stir up his countrymen in regard to the article relating
to the fisheries. This conduct is as tactless as it is im-
politic, and Mr. Adams would not have allowed himself


to proceed in this manner, had he reflected on what are
the conditions on which peace is to be made ; that in
order to be in a position to demand part in the fisheries
belonging to England they must either have conquered
them or be able to purchase them by equivalents. Very
certainly America is not now, nor will she probably
ever be, in either of these positions." ^

It is only necessary to add, that, in the matter of
granting compensation to the Loyalists, Vergennes, for
obscure reasons, chose to interest himself by taking the
position of another English envoy, as we shall see in
the subsequent correspondence.^

With this slight sketch of the French policy, let us
return to the American negotiation, and we shall have
a clearer understanding of the position of the American

1 It is not necessary to point out that tliese views were not such as
the American envoys would have subscribed to. Notably John Adams,
who, a month or two later, on being informed by Fitzherbert that the
expression "right" of fishing was an obnoxious one, rose up and
said, "Gentlemen, is there, or can there be, a clearer right? . . .
When God Almighty made the banks of Newfoundland, at three hun-
dred leagues distance from the people of America, and at six hundred
leagues distance from those of France and England, did he not give
as good a right to the former as to the latter ? "

2 Compare here Jay's draft, infra, p. 201.



ALL objections to the commission having been re-
moved, the business began to move rapidly. In
bhe early part of October, Oswald sent letters to Shel-
burne and Townshend, making answer to their de-
spatches accompanying the commission, and reporting
tds progress.

Oswald to Shelburne.

Paeis, 3d Oct. 1782.

My Lord, — I had the honor of your Lordship's letter
3f the 23'''' Sept"^ which I kept to myself, being assured
that those I have to deal with would not allow that
there has been too much done. And in which I own
[ cannot but agree with them, since fate has determined
the necessity.

Had it been so, and that I saw things in that light
Erom the beginning, any part whatsoever in the agency
jf the final determination would have been the last
thing I should haye chosen to be concerned in. And
3ven under the impulse of that necessity, I should have
liesitated with serious deliberation in proceeding in the
business, if I had any apprehension of the consequences
youi Lordship is pleased to mention ; as being in my
Dpinion a loss of all we have to trust to, for being de-
cently extricated out of our present unhappy embarrass-



I might even venture to say that the Commissioners
themselves, obstinate as they have been, would have
strayed in some degree, rather than have exposed the
nation to the hazard of a change.

And I must also do their friendship that justice as to
repeat an advice which one of them said he wished
to recommend, that two certain heads might be com-
posed by some sort of ingraftment or other that would
satisfy them, — meaning Messrs. F. and B. [Fox and
Burke]. I have found so much good in this gentle-
man 1 that I cannot suppress this instance of his regard
for England, although he never was there, and I hope
I may venture to do so, without being myself liable to
any charge of impertinent freedom.

I am with much respect and esteem

My Lord &c.

Oswald to Toivnshend.

Paris, 2nd Oct. 1782.

Sir, — I had the honor of your letters of the 20*"^ and
the 24*'' of September, the last accompanying His Majes-
ty's new commission altered as desired. Upon receipt,
I produced it to the American Commissioners, and they
were entirely satisfied therewith. I have also to advise
that yesterday I delivered to them a copy of said Com-
mission after its being compared with the original and
certified by me ; and in exchange received from them
a copy of their Commission, which being in like manner
compared with the original was certified by Mr. Jay
one of the Commissioners. A duplicate of said copy
you have enclosed.

Doctor Franklin being still but in an indifferent state
1 He alludes to Jay.


of health, he could not come to town, and left this first
part of the business to Mr. Jay. From any thing that
passed on the occasion, I have no reason to think worse
of the farther progress of it, than as mentioned in my
last advices. In a few days I hope we shall agree upon
the principal articles of which the Treaty is to consist.
When that is done, I shall transmit the same so as to
have your instructions thereon. We have as yet only
talked of them in a loose way vizt.

1st. Independence.

2nd. Settling the lines of Separation or Boundaries be-
tween those of the thirteen States and the British Colonies.

3d. Giving up the additional lands of Canada.

4th. Freedom of fishing to the thirteen States for Fish
and Whales.

These, I say, are all that have as yet been mentioned
between Mr. Jay and me, whether any other will be
proposed or insisted upon by them, I cannot say ; but I
hope not.

[The rest of the letter is taken up with Oswald and
Jay's scheme of withdrawing the garrison of New York
and sending it against Florida. The scheme came to
nothing ; and as the discussion of it is rather long, we-
omit it in the various letters in which it occurs. There
is also a postscript.]

P.S. Since writing the above, I have had some
farther conversation with Mr. Jay, about the conditions
of the Treaty. I hope to get clear of the advisable
articles, but as to some of those in my instructions I
doubt I shall not succeed. For the present I only
touched upon the following vizt.

Ungranted lands within the United States. He said
all must go with the States.

Pardon to the Loyalists. The Congress cannot


meddle in it. The States being sovereigns, and the
parties in fault answerable to them, and them only.
Besides he said it is his opinion, that many of them
could not be protected by their governments, and there-
fore ought to depart with the troops.

Drying fish in Newfoundland, I find is to be claimed
as a privilege in common, we being allowed the same
on their shores : I did not think it proper to say much
on this subject at present, and wish that granting this
freedom may be found to be no material loss to England,
being afraid if refused it may be a great loss in other
things. Mr. Jay came again upon the subject of West
Florida, and expects and insists for the common good,
our own as well as theirs, that it may not be left in the
hands of the Spaniards. And thinks we ought to pre-
pare immediately for the expedition, to execute it this
winter. At the same time he earnestly begs it may not
1)6 known that he advised it. And wishes I had men-
tioned it myself. As I approve of the thing, I thought
the proposal should be strengthened by his opinion, and
to speak the truth I could not suppress the credit
due to him for attending to it.

I am to dine with Doctor Franklin to-morrow, when it
is likely we shall talk farther of the conditions of the
treaty, and I am in hopes that the next courier may
carry a sketch of them. When agreed on they must
remain without effect or operation until we have closed
with France, so they positively say. I really believe
the Commissioners are sorry they are so tied up, but
they say there is no remedy.

After some little talking over the matter, it was
agreed that the American commissioners should make a
proposition as to terms, which Oswald should forward to


-lOiidon. Jay presented the statement to Oswald on the
ith of October; and Oswald immediately sent it to
-lOndon, where it at once became the object of thought
md discussion on the part of the Cabinet. No answer,
lowever, was immediately returned ; for the Cabinet had
mder discussion as well the propositions of France and
Spain, which were of such a nature that there was
ittle likelihood that England would accept them. This
lisposition to reject the French and Spanish demands
vas strengthened by the news of the raising the siege
if Gibraltar, which arrived in London at about this
ime. At this it was resolved not to accept the French
-nd Spanish propositions, and to endeavor to obtain
)etter terms from the United States.

Lord Shelburne, as may have been noticed in many
if the letters previously printed, was earnestly in-
erested in obtaining some relief for the American
joyalists. Hardly a letter came from him to Oswald
s^ithout some statement on the subject. It is easy
nough to imagine the pressure that would have been
lut on a minister to force him to insist that some repa-
ation be made them. Franklin, on the other hand,
s^as most obstinate on the other side. The fact that his
iwn son was one of the most prominent of the Loyalists,
eemed only to increase his resentment. The subject of
he Loyalists was never mentioned to him but that he
,t once stated that nothing could be done for them.
5ut it is not improbable that Shelburne failed to esti-
aate correctly the strength of Franklin's feelings ; for
le now sent word to Oswald that the American proposi-
ions could not be accepted without some provision for
:ompensation for the Loyalists, and some stipulation in
avor of British creditors of American merchants.

With these instructions, the Cabinet sent Henry


Strachey to Paris, an Under-Secretary in the Colonial
Office, to aid Oswald in j)i'essing the points relating to
the Loyalists, the creditors, and the boundaries, — a
question in which he was well informed. He was par-
ticularly instructed to press the claims of England to
the lands between the Ohio, the Mississippi, and the
Great Lakes, under the Proclamation of 1763, which
had stated the bounds of Canada. Strachey was known
as "a man of great discretion, accuracy, and learning." ^
John Adams thought him "as artful and insinuating
a man as they could send," and also mentions him as
being " keen and subtle, although not deeply versed in
such things." He was not really a great gain to the
English in the negotiation, although he assisted Mr.
Oswald by augmenting his arguments in every conceiv-
able way. But Jay and Franklin were now re-enforced
by John Adams, a most decided aid, who arrived in
Paris on the 26th of October; and the three, being
pretty well agreed as to terms, presented so determined
a front, that the English envoys were not sanguine of
success in making their demands, as may be seen from
their letters.

Oswald to Shelhurne.

Paeis, 29'h Oct. 1782.
My Lord, — Mr. Strachey arrived here yesterday at
noon and delivered me the letter your Lordship did me
the honor to write me of the 23rd for which I am much
obliged to your Lordship. The objects therein men-
tioned are of great importance. And the alternatives
proposed in your Lordship's note to Mr. Strachey are
certainly very proper. Both he and I will do all we
can to make the most of them. Last night we were

1 Fitzmaurice, iii. 281.


employed on the maps and charters. This forenoon
I introduced Mr. Strachey to Mr. Jay, when we run
over the several exceptions to their plan of treatj^ and
were joined by Mr. Adams, who is come from Holland
to take up his place in this commission. We then
went out to Doctor Franklin's, where the same subjects,
in the way of conversation, underwent another discus-
sion. I cannot say with what success. Only that I
think there is an appearance as that some things may
be gained. To-morrow at eleven o'clock the three Com-
missioners have agreed to meet at my quarters, to
examine maps and papers and thereafter all to dine
together at Mr. Jay's. We are now, at night, again
employed in that way, so as to be the better prepared
for them, at least as well as can be done from materials
of such indefinite construction.

Mr. Fitzherbert to whom I was under no difficulty
in shewing your Lordship's letter, wants to send off
this courier this night, so I have only time to express
my satisfaction at Mr. Strachey's coming over, who
seems to be zealously anxious in discharging his com-
mission, and is no less capable of doing it to the best
purpose. In wliich we have all the aid from Mr. Rob-
erts his materials can furnish. I have the honor &c.

P.S. It seems to be agreed by all the Commissioners
that the debts before the war should be paid, if the
debtors are in circumstances.-^ And that the several
provinces should be liable for such of them as their
Assemblies have levied and taken into their Treasury.

1 This was especially tlie view of Adams, wlio thought that any-
other course would be cheating those creditors, and who agreed with
Oswald, on first seeing him, that the pre-revolutionary debts should
be paid.


Oswald to TownsJiend.

Paeis, 29* Ocf 1782.

Sir, — I am to acknowledge the honor of your letter
of the 23d by Mr. Strachey, as well as to thank you for
the relief I hope to receive from him at so critical a
time. We have been to-day with the three Commission-
ers, and are to meet with them all together at eleven
o'clock to-morrow. Last night and at the present time
we are employed in looking into the maps and papers.

I\Ir. Strachey being to write b}^ this messenger, it is
unnecessary for me to trouble you with particulars on
this occasion. And have only to transmit the en-
closed certificate of the delivery to Doctor Franklin of
your order to Sir Guy Carleton respecting Captain

The Doctor returns you his compliments.

Strachey to ToivnsJiend.

Paris, 29* Octr. 1782.
SiK, — I arrived yesterday noon and passed the
remainder of the day in discussing the several points
with Oswald. This morning we saw Mr. Jay and also
Mr. Adams (who came hither a few days ago from
Holland) and afterwards went to Doctor Franklin at
Passy. It is impossible from the general conversation,
held with each of those gentlemen, to judge what will
be the result ; and hitherto I can only venture to say
that it appears as if we shall be able to gain some
ground. To-morrow morning we are all to meet and to
go through the different topics together. My object
will be to act fully up to your instructions in every
particular; and to expedite the business without a



loment's delay. But I fear it will be several (I hope
ot many) days before matters come to a conclusion.


The reader will thus see, that, as soon as Strachey
ad Adams arrived, the conferences went on with re-
ewed vigor. The question of boundaries was at once
ittled. Adams, having brought
ith him documents of importance
1 regard to the north-east bound-
cy, took the lead here ; and the
t. Croix was accepted instead of
le St. John, as desired by Frank-
n, or the Penobscot, as desired
y the English. Adams was, like
'ranklin, firm for the fisheries.
i was agreed, however, that the
.aim to dry fish on Newfoundland
lUst be given up ; and the Americans contented them-
;lves with permission to dry on unsettled parts of Nova
cotia. As far as the English creditors were concerned,
ohn Adams at once agreed that it was but just that no
Qpediment should be laid to the collection of debts
Dntracted before the war ; and an article to that effect
as drawn up. Upon the question of the Loyalists, as
■ell, Adams would probably have given way rather than
reak off the treaty ; and Jay in this agreed with him..
;ut Franklin was determined that no recompense should
e mentioned, and persuaded Adams and Jay to his
oint of view. He also took occasion in a letter to
'ownshend to hope that this matter would not be
ressed by the English at the risk of giving up the
:eaty. With articles of this purport, Strachey returned
) London.


Oswald to Toivnshend.

Paris, 5th Novr. 1782.

Sir, — As this goes by ]\Ir. Strachey, I beg leave to
refer jou. to him for what has passed between the Amer-
ican Commissioners and lis, since his arrivah I need
only in general say, that on all the material points in
question he has enforced our pretensions by every argu-
ment that reason, justice or humanity could suggest;
and even sometimes to the point of almost exciting
those insinuations of menace which I had been so long
accustomed to, as reported by me on several occasions.
And to which we had nothing to oppose of reservation
on our part, but an alternative which we did not think
advisable on the present occasion to offer directly to
their consideration and option.

On these limits we are always obliged to stop ; and
at last to accept of such terms, as they would agree to,
in the mean time, to be sent home and submitted to His
Majesty's consideration. They are all thrown together
in due paper which Mr. Strachey carries with him ; to
be afterwards arranged in more proper order, which
there is no time for at present.

Mr. Strachey will inform you that at diiferent times
we tried the Commissioners on the subject of the evacu-
ation of our garrisons. But always had for answer that
a production of a signed treaty was sufficient for the
settlement of such convention with General Washing-
ton, as would enable our General to withdraw the gar-
risons in a quiet and orderly manner, as well as our
artillery and stores, &c. But farther than what miglit
be produced by an exhibition of the treaty they could
not undertake for, after the most serious deliberation on
the subject, either by writing private letters to their
General or other ways as I proposed.


Straehey to Townshend.

Calais, Stli Novr. 1782.

Sir, — Considering the anxiety of my mind and the
fatigues I have gone through, having travelled 16 and
18 hours sometimes a day, in very bad roads and with
miserable horses, you will not expect that I should have
been perfectly clear in the despatch accompanying this.
But I thought it necessary to send you some account
of the business, and the messenger will certainly reach
j-ou several hours before I can. On my arrival here
this morning I found that the wind had been adverse
for seven days past, and that there were at least sixty
English in one house waiting for a passage.

The Treaty must be written in London in a regular
form, which we had not time to do at Paris ; and several
of the expressions being too loose should be tightened ;
for these Americans are the greatest quibblers I ever
knew. The paragraph about the Indian lands in
Georgia (a subject which I thought right to take up,
though I had no particular instruction concerning it)
seems to be too indecisive to be inserted at all in the
Treaty. It was put in amongst the articles that j'ou
might have everything before you.

From an accurate attention to words which feU from

Online LibraryEdward Everett HaleFranklin in France. From original documents, most of which are now published for the first time → online text (page 13 of 34)